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Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari (838-923), Iranian historian and theologian, was born in Amol, Tabaristan (south of the Caspian), and studied in Ray (Rages) , Baghdad, and in Syria and Egypt. "Tabari" means from Tabaristan. He died in Baghdad in 923.
Cast upon his own resources after his father's death, he was reduced to great poverty until he was appointed tutor to the son of the vizier Tibaidalläh ibn Yaliya. He afterwards journeyed to Egypt, but soon returned to Bagdad, where he remained as a teacher of tradition and law until his death. His life was simple and dignified, and characterized by extreme diligence. He is said to have often refused valuable gifts. A Shafi'ite in law, he claimed the right to criticize all schools, and ended by establishing a school of his own, in which, however, he incurred the violent wrath of the Hanbalites.
His works are not numerous, but two of them are very extensive. The one is the Tãrikh ur-Rusul wal-Mulük (History of the Prophets and Kings), generally known as the Annals. This is a history from the Creation to AD 915, and is renowned for its detail and accuracy. It has been published under the editorship of MJ de Goeje in three series, comprising thirteen volumes, with two extra volumes containing indices, introduction and glossary (Leiden, 1879-1901). A Persian digest of this work, made in 963 by the Samanid scholar al-Bal'ami, has been translated into French by H Zotenberg (vols. i.-iv., Paris, 1867-1874). A Turkish translation of this was published at Constantinople (1844).
His second great work was the commentary on the Koran, which was marked by the same fullness of detail as the Annals. The size of the work and the independence of judgment in it seem to have prevented it from having a large circulation, but scholars such as Baghawi and Suyuti used it largely. It has been published in thirty vols. (with extra index volume) at Cairo, 1902-1903. An account of it, with brief extracts, has been given by O Loth in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, vol. xxxv. (1881), pp. 588-628. Persian and Turkish translations of the commentary exist in manuscript. A third great work was projected by Tabari. This was to be on the traditions of the Companions, etc., of Mahomet. It was not, however, completed. Other smaller works are mentioned in the Fihrist, pp. 234-235.